I've been thinking about this a lot because our daughter (9 almost 10!) has been gradually getting more interested in making well... anything. I couldn't be happier.
Since I'm so involved in making myself I've tried not to push it on the kids. I've always made the basics available (and trust me they raid my "work" stuff too), but I've never pushed them into creating something because it's 'crafty time' or anything like that. I've always had a feeling that if they felt inspired it would come—and it does—in spurts.
Purely based on my observations of our kids this is why I think that all kids should be exposed to art from the moment they can hold something (and not swallow it!).
1. Creativity = A nose can be red
During the Christmas break little C and I went to paint Santa mugs at a ceramics shop. She painted her own and I painted one for her brother who I knew would want one but hadn't been in the mood to go with us that day. She decided that Santa's nose needed to be red. I made the comment that I thought Rudolph was the only one with a red nose. No. She said I was wrong and that Santa had a red nose too—and that was that. Okey. Dokey.
(She did such a good job with her painting that the only way we can tell the mugs apart are the noses!)
Kids are open to all possibilities and show it in their projects. A nose can be red, hair can be purple and skin can be green. No big deal. Why not? Why not indeed.
Tip for the adults (and a reminder for myself):
Don't question a child's choices. If you're genuinely curious about something ask questions instead of trying to "set them straight". I was kicking myself after the 'red nose' comment I made because I always tell the kids that in art there are no wrong answers. I never... almost never question their choices. Oops.
2. Confidence = I can do this!
Our little C just learned how to use my sewing machine this past weekend. She knows how to thread the machine and even though she still needs help with the bobbin she's off to the races! For now her only project has been making small pillows (see above?). I gave her some lavender and she also made us a couple of sachets! She's been making the cute pillows over and over again and is completely thrilled with her progress. As the days go by she seems more in command of what she's doing. She's developed a rhythm to her work—she totally knows what's she's doing.
Learning how to use one tool makes her braver to try something else—something new. I've noticed it every time she tackles a new medium. It never fails.
Tip for adults:
Within reason and keeping safety in mind let kids try out things that you don't think they may be ready for—they may surprise you. My daughter definitely surprised me with the way she picked up using the sewing machine. I honestly didn't think she was ready for it.
3. Problem solving = I figured it out
I remember that a few years ago our son decided that he wanted to make a garage for his little cars out of a cardboard box (just remembered! I blogged about it here). He tried to use scissors to cut the box apart. A combination of old scissors and cardboard that was too thick made the task almost impossible. He opted for the "tear with my own two hands" method and he was done. The cardboard was all jagged and taped together in a haphazard way but he couldn't be happier with the results.
In crafting something can go wrong at any point for a myriad of reasons. What to do? The kids either ask for help or figure it out on their own. Either way they are digging themselves out of the hole they're in.
Tip for adults:
If the kids get frustrated I typically don't let them give up on their idea. There's always a way through or around a problem. Occasionally there may be an idea that is just a complete flop. That's OK too. You all at least learned a way NOT to do something. This is when I typically tell the kids that art is fun and there's NO reason to stress over it (says the woman who often fusses and wonders whether a project is really done. Ha!).
4. Understanding processes and planning = One thing at a time
You can't touch it until it's dry!
Wait the glue isn't set yet!
The bobbin needs thread. That's why the machine is no longer sewing.
Clean the brush with water before dipping it another color.
You get the picture, right? The kids learn that there is a method to the madness—whatever that madness (project) may be.
Tip for adults:
Sometimes it's OK to skip a step or two or three. Maybe your child has a better way of getting from A to B. You never know! Exploring is half the fun.
5. Pride = I did it!
Finishing a project is so fulfilling and watching the kids running around showing it to the world is the best. "Look what I made! Look! LOOK!"
Tip for adults:
Be genuine in your praise. Kids can tell when you're just being nice to be nice.
6. Having Fun = Having Fun!
And I'll say it again... Fun! Making is simply entertaining, engrossing and relaxing. Why wouldn't you want your kids exposed to that? They also learn that it's good to take some time off—that it's good (healthy) to take a mental recess.
Tip for adults:
Let the kids lead. You are only a guest or a helper if you're invited to jump in. If they want to tackle a project alone don't take it personally. Remember the last time you wanted to enjoy YOUR book/craft/TV show/whatever without a child on your lap or interrupting every few minutes. You just wanted some alone time. Maybe they just want the same.
Bonus = art + kids is good for YOU
By being around kids and their art you get to spend some time relearning or remembering your own carefree hands on times. The kids may even teach you a new way of doing something. You will also be lucky to witness a little mind at work—fascinating!
Art made in good company spurs on conversations that you wouldn't otherwise have and it gets your mind off of everything else going on in your world. Any way you look at it, you get something out of it too.
Learning about creativity, confidence, problem solving, understanding processes, pride and simply taking some time to have fun sounds so clinical and dry. Yawn! But in the context of arts and crafts these lessons simply seep into a child's daily experiences and will most definitely bear fruit in other endeavors.
• • •
Phew! I didn't expect that to be that long. But at least it's out of my head and on 'paper'. I know I didn't reveal anything ground breaking but I think it can serve as a reminder for of all us that art IS important.
So who wants to take a crafty break now?
But maybe later since it's 2am and I got up to write this because I couldn't sleep!